Saturday, 23 June 2012

A London Gannet

Bizarrely John A and I had been talking about a Gannet at Crossness this morning, as one had been seen over Surrey yesterday evening. Anyway, as it was, one ended up on East Warwick Reservoir, one of the Walthamstow reservoirs. Only 10 miles away from Rotherhithe, it was too good to miss and bizarrely I'd never seen one of these big boys inland either. A really enjoyable trip, with Karen even quite enjoying seeing it, and a bizarre sight too seeing it amongst Canada Geese and soaring above the London skyline. Looks like it's a 3rd calendar year bird (2nd-summer).

Not that sure what this bird's fate will be sadly, but fingers crossed. Perhaps it's just disoriented, much like the Yellow-nosed Albatross a few years ago that, after being photographed on a pond in Lincolnshire, managed to find the open seas again in Sweden.

Mucky ducks multiplying

I ended up having a leisurely visit to Crossness this morning, after umming and arring last night whether or not to head to one of my old haunts at New Brighton to see a Little Swift. In the end tiredness and lethargy won. So, thoroughly expecting to see very little, I was pleasantly surprised to at least have something to look at this morning - there were now 3 Ruddy Shelduck x Common Shelduck hybrids on the foreshore.
Ruddy x Common Shelduck - bird 1 (same bird as last weekend)

Ruddy x Common Shelduck - bird 2

Ruddy x Common Shelduck - bird 3
Up until the summer before last, there was a regular Ruddy Shelduck but this seems to have been replaced by these birds, potentially its offspring.

Rotherhithe had a few large gulls, including a 2nd-summer Yellow-legged Gull, while there were a couple of Common Terns on Surrey Water (but no chicks).

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Little Bittern twitch

So another weekend passes and I've not been outside the M25. But for once, London and the Home Counties produced a decent bird that I was keen to see. The female Little Bittern on the River Colne near Rickmansworth was particularly obliging this morning, and it showed pretty much continually from 7.45am until I left the site at just gone 10am. Quite a pleasant site too with Kingfisher, Hobby and Garden Warblers all performing. Anyway, I've seen enough Little Bitterns in Mediterranean reedbeds to shake a stick at, as well as four previously in the UK (the last being in 2003) - but this bird was incredible for prolonged views and almost as close as the one I saw 10 years ago in Mr H's hand! Here are some shots from today...

When I'd had enough, as the mid-morning chumps were arriving in their masses, I busted a move back to the southeast side of London and by early afternoon I was back in solitude and on familiar territory. There was a new Mediterranean Gull, a 2nd summer, at the incinerator outfall at high tide along with the first juvenile Black-headed Gull too.
juvenile Black-headed Gull - first one of the year at Crossness where there are no local breeding colonies
Back in Rotherhithe at low tide this evening, one of yesterday's ringed gulls, a Great Black-backed from the NTGG project, was still present.
LK2T - on more than one occasion this winter, these avian dons drew quite a lot of blood when being ringed

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Mucky ducks and good gulls

Having just about recovered from one of the most manic weeks work wise that I've ever had (including 4 hours of teaching today), I headed out with Josh this afternoon to Crossness. Times were hard a week or so ago, and the spring seemed to have finished. The only unusuals I've had this week have been the continued presence of the two Egyptian Geese on the dock outside my flat roosting by the watersports centre - not the most pleasant of sights if I'm honest.

So, just to cap this mongrel wildfowl fest off this bad boy hybrid Ruddy Shelduck x Common Shelduck was on the Thames foreshore off the golf centre this afternoon: -
hybrid Ruddy x Common Shelduck

Very similar in plumage to the hybrid at the top of this page
It is actually quite a smart bird (having been seen last weekend in Barking Bay) and I'm a bit of a fan of looking at anything that looks different, even if its genealogy is rather suspect. There were also 4 Yellow-legged Gulls (2nd-summer and three 1st-summers) on the foreshore, including this showy bird: -
1st-summer Yellow-legged Gull - variably battered at this time of year, and interesting to see the variation. Perhaps the more streak-headed, more retarded and slightly less bleached 1st-summers are lusitanicus but this is pure speculation and more experience/research is needed. There was a recent ringing recovery from Beddington though.
It got even better at the outfall, as there was a real surprise in the form of a nice 1st-summer Little Gull that busily fed with the most distant Black-headed Gulls. There were also three 1st-summer Med Gulls still knocking around too, so it'd be nice if these guys nob around all summer so there's something to look at on the quiet days ahead.

Back in Rotherhithe, had a couple of ringed gulls too - a 1st-summer GBB red-ringed from the North Thames ringing group and interestingly, a white-ringed 2nd-summer Herring that'll be from the Sussex rehabilitation project.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Trying to stop the rot

Watching TV last night, I did a double take as an exotic piece of trash flew past my flat window - an Egyptian Goose. Not completely unheard of on the dock here, but it doesn't happen everyday.

So, the phone beeped this morning and it was Karen texting me 'I think the Egyptian Goose is still here - saw a funny looking bird by the watersports inlet, was being very noisy'. And by jove with such prompt news and detailed directions, I was on it, them (an adult and a juvenile) like a flash. RBA and BirdGuides, take note of your challenger.
adult Egyptian Goose, Greenland Dock

and then they multiplied...
I needed a break from the marking and Crossness, so rather randomly, I just drove... and drove... and ended up in the Dungeness/Rye area in the increasing wind and torrential rain! I really wanted to just get out of the M25, and for some reason I've always liked this Rye Harbour and the solitude and potential it brings with it. Loads of breeding birds - Med Gulls, Sandwich, Little and Common Terns, Avocets. Only migrant I saw was a lone Sanderling on the Ternery Pit.
Sandwich Terns busily feeding young

One of the more mature chicks in the colony

A lone Common Gull - short-billed but not a Short-billed

two of many vocal Med Gulls - they seemed to prefer more vegetated areas to breed than B-h Gulls
I also had a brief stop in at Dengemarsh for half an hour or so, where I didn't see the Purple Heron. I didn't deserve to either with the lack of effort I put in. The bird had been seen earlier, but with blustery conditions and a sense of deja vu from a couple of summers ago, I headed off home - seeing a Bittern and a couple of Hobbies that were gliding around.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Summer doldrums finally set in

I've kept on giving it a go the last couple of days. But that time of year has well and truly happened - everything is where it needs to be, spring migration has stopped and it's just the odd random waif or stray to be found by the lucky man. I even had a lie in yesterday, not arriving until gone 9am. It didn't matter as there'd been zero migrants. I mixed it up again today, doing some bits and bobs in the morning, before venturing out along the Thames path at Crossness this afternoon. Quiet once again, bar a 1st-summer Mediterranean Gull at the outfall.
1st-summer Mediterranean Gull, Crossness 6/6/12
Perhaps there is still one last blast of something this spring - only a year ago today the White-throated Robin turned up at Hartlepool. Seems like it's going to be unseasonably windy over the next few days though, and it could all now be about waiting for return wader passage to begin... in over a month's time! We'll see.

Monday, 4 June 2012

ringed Yellow-legged Gull at Crossness

Another cold morning at Crossness today, made more so by trampling in some long grass getting my trainers and jeans soaking wet. A Sanderling off the golf centre was a real bonus, as I thought the flock a couple of days ago would be the last of the spring. There was also a 1st-summer Mediterranean Gull on the mud as well as a couple of NTGG ringed gulls - one of these was a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull. It'll have been ringed at Rainham but it'll be interesting to see if it has been wandering around since. Other Yellow-legged Gulls ringed at Rainham have been seen, for example, in Portugal and France. There were also 3 1st-summer Y-l Gulls present.
Yellow-legged Gull YL3T
The outfall and West Paddock were dead, and in desperation John A and I headed to southern marsh to see if we could re-live the dream from 5 years ago.
5 years ago
But it was not to be, and I ended up falling on my arse, literally. A combination of slippery mud and lack of grip. Just glad John A didn't have his camera out.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Loads of boats

That pretty much sums up a miserable day weather wise here in southeast London. I was out in the mist and murk at Crossness early on, getting soaked for my troubles. That'd have been fine if I'd actually had a view of the river when I got the news that Dave Mo had a couple of Sandwich Terns flying downriver towards me. You see, when walking between the golf centre and the incinerator outfall you have a good 5 minutes of zero view courtesy of a 12 foot concrete river wall. The terns headed straight east, as David B had them going through Rainham a short while later.

Later on, I ventured out to have a gander at the Queen's river pageant - loads and loads of boats. They'd shut the Thames Barrier, so the low tide this evening at Rotherhithe never came but I have got the boats to thank for one thing - disturbing a Shelduck from elsewhere that flew straight over me near Greenland Pier at 6pm, heading up and over the Isle of Dogs. Only my 2nd in Rotherhithe following one on 28th June 2008.
Boats cluttering up the entrance to South Dock. My usual vantage point for a bit of larid action in Rotherhithe. Not today though.

Looking east towards Greenwich from Greenland Pier... I've seen Med Gulls, Black and Sandwich Terns, Little Gull from here. Not today though.

I've seen a Caspian Gull on that left hand post... not today though.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Sanderlings and songsters

Had an enjoyable time at the London Birders' drinks last night. Probably not quite as good a time as John A and Hawky, both of whom for once I beat to the patch this morning. Nice easterlies overnight and a bit of murk unsurprisingly meant that it wasn't a write off at Crossness, despite the lateness in the migration season.
5 of the 6 Sanderlings near the incinerator outfall, Crossness
Two distant, non-breeding (presumably 1st-summer) Barwits were in Barking Bay just shy of 8am and then a quick walk down to the incinerator outfall produced a handsome half dozen Sanderling and for once, in spring at least, these waders were on the south side of the river. I always love Sanderlings on spring passage, as they're usually the last migrant waders that I see heading north before the summer doldrums set in. John A located a further 8 Sanderlings in Barking Bay, that had dropped in since I'd arrived, while there was a 1st-summer Med Gull off the incinerator outfall. Not much else doing so we headed north a bit.
The singing Marsh Warbler was heard on arrival at Rainham, but with the wind getting up and the vegetation seeming pretty dense it was decided we wouldn't hang around to see it. A fantastic recording of this bird, and all its associated mimickry can be found clicking here. After all, the views would have been a bit poor, the song is the best bit about the bird and I'd seen one on the reserve almost to the day 5 years ago. There was also a reeling Grasshopper Warbler and a Corn Bunting trying to compete with the wind too.

Back at the incinerator outfall at Crossness this afternoon, I managed to get my highest total of Med Gulls here - four (all 1st-winter/1st-summers) and additional to the bird this morning. Always quality birds, and close to the top of my favourite species. No sign of any Bonaparte's Gulls today though, and seems like there has been a fair bit of change in the composition of the Black-headed Gull flock since last weekend.
One of five seen today - all 2nd calendar year birds

Heavy wing moult! Lack secondaries and its innermost primaries

More advanced hood than the individual above, although its wing moult is very similar